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As this article discusses the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there will, of course, be huge SPOILERS beyond this point. If you haven’t seen the movie, for the love of all that is good, please read something else.
At lot of people saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend, like damn near everyone. And a lot of people walked out of the theater in a kind of stunned silence after witnessing what happens at the end, namely the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday. Comic book fans who are familiar with the source material, chiefly the Death of Superman arc, where he meets his end thanks to this brutal enemy, anticipated this conclusion, but it took many by surprise. And this surprise went on to further surprise director Zack Snyder, who thought more people would see it coming.
Zack Snyder wanted Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to serve as a jumping off point to bring the Justice League together, and decided the best way to do this was to kill Superman and use his death as a catalyst. Then came the question of how to accomplish this. After all, the Man of Steel is one tough cookie. Pulling in Doomsday, who kills Superman in the 1992 comic story The Death of Superman, was a natural next step. Snyder thought this was an obvious, inevitable conclusion, but as he told Buzz Feed:
I was shocked that people did not immediately jump to the conclusion. I think they just felt like, ‘That’s impossible. They’re not going to kill Superman.’ I mean, a couple people did [figure it out], but then they were all yelled at. It was funny.
We’ve known that Doomsday was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice since some of the early trailers—even before that he was rumored to make an appearance. Given that, and how closely the villain is tied to Superman’s death, it is a bit surprising that the ending took so many people by surprise. The event is handled differently than in the comics, but the end result is the same.
Perhaps as big a figure as Superman is in popular culture, this is a story still more familiar to comic book fans than general audiences. As big as the event was in the comics—I was in high school and I remember how Earth shattering it felt at the time—that was more than twenty years ago, so maybe the event has simply faded from memory for the casual moviegoer.
It’s also not an uncommon occurrence for superheroes to die, and the general consensus is that they rarely stay dead and there’s almost always a way to bring them back in some form. Still, as often as this happens on the page, thus far into our various comic book universes, we haven’t lost too many major superheroes—and who is more major than Superman?. So perhaps Zack Snyder is right, even if it seemed like the logical conclusion, maybe many simply didn’t believe we’d watch the Man of Steel die in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now we wait and see how they bring him back.